Two weeks ago, I discussed a little bit about why I believe children and adults alike have a sense of entitlement. Let me reiterate, that I believe this sense stems from being given too many things, instead of earning them. I am always amazed at the things that I hear that people believe they have the ‘right’ to; big things like the right to a job, to a home, to a car, to things much smaller like butting in line, interrupting someone, and taking a pencil off of someone else’s desk.
Years ago, I lived with an elderly woman by the name of Rosa Belle, who often said to me that to work is a privilege. Even though I had never consciously said those words out loud, I realized she was absolutely right. It started me thinking of other sorts of things that were privileges that people confused with rights. I believe this is such a valuable lesson that I spend two weeks at the beginning of every school year teaching the differences in my classroom (Laying the Groundwork: Rights vs. Privileges), and then repeating them throughout the rest of the year.
When I consult with adults about these concepts, I often start to see the proverbial light bulb go off in their heads as they begin to understand how different the two are, and how much more impactful they can be with children by having the children earn rewards, which consequently, instills a sense of pride, instead of simply giving things away, which instills the attitude of entitlement.
I watch adults give cell phones to children and many of those same children think it is their right to have it. It would be so much more impactful to the child if the phone was earned first, and then had specific expectations they had to adhere to in order to maintain its possession. Electronic games, hanging out with friends, or getting something at the store are other examples.
Another way to instill entitlement is to have the reward bigger than the deed was that earned it in the first place. I call this, “giving away a trip to Hawaii when a trip to the corner market would suffice.” The Troll Doll pencil that I wrote about two weeks ago (The “Principal” of Entitlement), is a perfect example of this concept. Cloie had to earn it and was thrilled with her accomplishment when she did. Of course, if I would have given her a $25 gift card she would have been thrilled, too. However, a $25 gift card wasn’t necessary, just a $1.25 pencil.
Generally, most of us are excited and happy to be acknowledged and to have a sense of pride that we accomplished something. I remember a practicum I was doing while I was in college. I worked with a group of preschool kids who had behavioral and emotional issues. One day, during the hour I was there, the teacher walked by, patted me on my left front shoulder and smiled at me. I smiled back and felt good about what I was doing. Later in the day, one of my officemates mentioned the sticker on my left front shoulder. It said, “Great job!” That was it, “Great job!” Yet, 29 years later, I still remember the feeling I got when I realized it came from that teacher. The next day and forward, I worked even harder to please the teacher. I was 21 years old and a sticker made me feel proud of what I was doing! I didn’t need a trip to Hawaii; a trip to the corner store was enough.
In the No Bull 5-Tiered Level System, used in my classroom, nothing is just given to the students. Everything is earned. If I “give” something to my students, there is a reason; their homework was returned on time, their point sheet (Time Card) was signed by every teacher, every student gave their best effort while learning something difficult. I always tell them why they are getting the reward; otherwise there is no connection as to why. I think about the behaviors I want to see and then I reward the students who exhibit them. Examples of what students can earn are; a mini-candy bar, stickers, minutes of free time, bonus pay, a high-five.
Are you “giving away” the trip to Hawaii when your children would be just as happy to earn a trip to the corner store?
Come back next, when I’ll be asking, “Who’s in charge, the adult or the child?”
Be kinder than necessary, be grateful, and create a peace-filled week,
P.S. This is the last week of our FREE “No Bull Teacher” polo shirt give-away. Congratulations to all our winners. Check your email to see if you are the lucky last one!!